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Safety & health program rule, ergo, OSHA reform top ASSE 2010 to-do list (2/1)

February 1, 2010
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The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) has announced its legislative and regulatory agenda for 2010. Twelve key issues dominate the agenda.

ASSE will work this year to advance the following legislative and regulatory priorities:

1 -- Reflect ASSE Member Experience and Expertise in OSHA Reform – Reform of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, including strengthening Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) criminal and civil penalties ending in fatalities, is a key issue. ASSE intends to support a bipartisan approach to increased penalties that target truly bad ‘actors’ and encourage corporate responsibility for setting a culture of safety at the highest level of management.

2 -- Provide OSHA Coverage for State and Municipal Employees – In states that do not have their own state OSHA plans and, thus, are covered by federal OSHA, state and municipal workers are not guaranteed protection under OSHA’s standards leaving more than eight million public sector workers without the same workplace protections other workers have. ASSE members have worked hard to achieve such coverage in Florida know the difficulties of achieving coverage state by state. ASSE believes a federal solution is necessary, and that OSH Act reform cannot be complete without federal protections for all U.S. workers.

3 -- Advance a Safety and Health Program Rule – OSH regulation must better encompass risk-based approaches that encourage employers to take overall responsibility for safety and health throughout their organizations and not simply to react to minimal regulatory mandates. Adoption of a rule would help ensure that all employers follow their lead. The promulgation by OSHA of a safety and health program rule is the key to advancing this approach by requiring employers to assess the risks in their workplaces and take a proactive approach in addressing those risks.

4 -- Develop Cooperative Ways to Address Regulatory Change – Mechanisms are needed to help the OSH community overcome polarizing viewpoints that limit OSHA’s and Mining and Safety Health Administration’s (MSHA) ability to update standards appropriately, including permissible exposure limits (PELs). ASSE has long called for negotiated rulemaking to set exposure limits and legal protections for standard development organizations to pursue exposure limits through the voluntary consensus standard process. OSHA should establish a national stakeholder dialogue to build common ground in support of regulatory reform.

5 -- Advance Global Harmonization – OSHA’s rulemaking on global harmonization of U.S. hazard communications (GHS) must be completed as quickly as reasonably possible. GHS is a positive opportunity for OSHA both to advance workplace safety and health and to help ensure competitiveness for U.S. employers.

6 -- Support National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health’s (NIOSH) Effectiveness in Advancing Safety –NIOSH is the source for federal resources to support OSH research as well as OSH professional training and education. The NIOSH partnership with ASSE, its ‘Research to Practice (R2P)’ initiative, the establishment of NORA research councils, ‘Prevention through Design’ and other initiatives, has done much to advance safety involvement in NIOSH. More is needed, however, such as finding ways through R2P to bring NIOSH research to the job floor. The ASSE Foundation now funds two PhD candidates, but NIOSH support is needed to increase the number of safety PhD programs as many safety PhDs approach retirement. NIOSH support for safety training must reflect the importance that frontline safety professionals play in employers’ commitment to safety and health. And, NIOSH must work towards an appropriate balance between safety and health research funding.

7 -- Ensure Safety Agency Commitments – In a difficult economic climate, ASSE will work to ensure that federal commitment to OSHA, MSHA, NIOSH, the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) and other agencies that impact workplace safety and health is not compromised and that those who are appointed to agency leadership positions can build consensus among all stakeholders.

8 --Build Consensus on Ergonomics – ASSE will continue to work toward achieving a consensus position on ergonomics that can overcome the long-standing polarization on this issue. An approach that is risk-based, encourages cooperation, and avoids prescriptive, one-size-fits-all solutions that our expert members know will not work can serve as a consensus position. ASSE can also support industry-specific approaches that reflect the demonstrated best practices of our members in the industry, as current legislation to protect direct care nurses and health care workers from the risks posed by lifting in health care facilities achieves.

9 - -Include SH&E in Trade Policy – ASSE encourages OSHA to take a role in ensuring that safety and health is part of U.S. trade policy so that U.S. corporate investments in SH&E are not undermined by international competitors who compete without investing in these global responsibilities.

10 --Engage in Chemical Management Reform Efforts – The current Administration has signaled the intent to reform the nation’s management of chemicals through reform of the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 (TSCA). ASSE members, with experience and expertise in managing chemicals across every industry, will participate in the debate as this effort moves forward.

11 -- Encourage Use of Voluntary Consensus Standards – ASSE will work to encourage federal agencies to comply with the Technology Transfer Act's mandate to consider national consensus standards where feasible when engaged in rulemaking. Use of such standards, like ANSI/ASSE Z15 for safe motor vehicle operation, ANSI/ASSE Z117 for confined spaces, and ANSI/ASSE Z490.1 for safety training will improve protections of workers and expedite rulemaking activities while reflecting the current technology and industry best practices.

12 -- Support Third Party Consultation – ASSE supports legislation or regulatory approaches that allow third party safety audits of employers under strict requirements that ensure professionalism and maximize effectiveness, thereby expanding OSHA’s reach beyond the limits of its current enforcement and cooperative programs.

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